30 Things Every Young Man Should Know
I’m almost halfway through being 18…an age I’m legally adult and a man. Having emerged from the tangled forest of adolescence I’ve learned many lessons. I learned a lot of them through watching other people. Some I just figured out through wisdom and insight. But, a large number were learned through trial, error, and a lot of pain.
I want to pass this wisdom down to the young guys so hopefully they have a bit more of a roadmap to help guide them than I did.
30 Things Every Young Man Should Know:
1. Some people should be kept at arm’s length.
It’s a good thing to show love and compassion to everyone. But, it’s also important to understand who should be in your inner circle, and who you should keep at a distance or even avoided. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Destructive people are out there. The sooner you spot who they are and where they should fit in your life, the better.
People are going to do you wrong and hurt you. No matter what you do, you will be hurt by someone at some point and that’s often out of your control. But, what you do in the aftermath is entirely in your hands. Holding grudges never does anyone any good. It’s self destructive and can even seep over into relationships that have nothing to do with the person who hurt you. That said, that doesn’t mean that you should necessarily let them back into your life right after. Forgiveness is about letting go of the hurt and grudge, not about completely forgetting and pretending it didn’t happen.
3. It’s not always your fault.
Bad things happen to good people. As Matthew 5:45 teaches: “[God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” If you did your very best, it’s not on you at that point. And it’s okay. This is especially true in relationships. Not everything is your fault. Not every failure around you is your own.
4. Sometimes it IS your fault.
We don’t like to think about this possibility, but we need to accept responsibility for our own actions. Sometimes we make poor choices and have to pay consequences no matter what happens. I ended one of my relationships because we weren’t right for each other and it devastated the girl. I had been rejected and this girl was attractive to me at the time, so I went for it. My intent wasn’t at all to use her, but it would have been wiser and less painful for everyone if I had stopped to assess my situation and make a smarter decision. In the end, it was my fault, and I came to terms with that.
5. Pick your battles.
Not every disagreement needs to become a confrontation. As you get older you’ll realize that not every potential battle needs to be fought. In certain instances maybe they need to be, but not by you. Situations will occur around us that simply aren’t meant for us to handle. But, at the same time, there are certainly battles that we need to fight, for others’ or our own well being. And, by all means, fight those battles.
6. First impressions are more important than you can imagine.
You only have one shot, so putting your best foot forward is always your best option. From dressing decently and speaking articulately, to standing tall and making eye contact, the way you present yourself is the way people will see you. And the way people see you will determine how they treat you and the opportunities they give you.
7. Kindness is never wasted.
When you shower kindness upon someone, romantically or otherwise, it can feel entirely wasted if the relationship ends poorly. I’ve felt that way sometimes. But, love and kindness always do good for someone. In ancient Jewish culture it was demanded that everyone did an act of charity, no matter how poor you were. This largely came from the belief that charity was just as much about the giver as it was about the recipient. Showing kindness to others, even if it’s not reciprocated or appreciated, says a lot about who we are and the content of our character.
8. Some things just don’t need to be said.
Not everything that pops into your head needs to spill out of your mouth. I’ve avoided a lot of possible challenges simply by keeping my mouth shut. If it’s not a positive thing, figure out some way of saying it that benefits those who are listening.
9. Time does actually heal wounds.
Breakups, backstabbing, being let down, rejection…the pain from all of these goes away given enough time and a determination to move forward. I’ve had points in my life where I couldn’t even imagine what it was like to smile anymore. But, time soothes the pain and I eventually moved forward and smiled again.
10. Moving forward means leaving things behind.
Sometimes we need to move on from situations, relationships, groups, etc. But, in order to fully do so, we need to cut them out. I’ve come across this personally in my romantic relationships. When I was dumped and they pulled out the “let’s be friends” card, I politely declined. Not because I hate any of the girls I’ve dated, but because I knew that moving on meant leaving them behind. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case with every relationship, but it’s what’s most healthy for me given my personality. You might have a similar situation regarding an entire social circle or something else.
11. It’s good to take risks and be bold.
Some of the coolest experiences in my life have come from doing things despite my fear. Some of the things that came from putting myself out there ended in: me writing for this site, going to New York Comic Con, making good friends, and more. It’s scary in the moment, but the end result is either a little disappointment or potentially huge success. Either way, no regrets.
12. Being real is more important than being cool.
“You’re such a genuine guy,” is my favorite compliment. This is, to me, so much better than being told I’m cool. Good people see, recognize, and are drawn to authenticity. Believe it or not, most good people, especially girls, can tell exactly when you’re faking or trying too hard. If you want to draw amazing people to you, then just be real with yourself and them, instead of putting up a facade in order to look cool. Cool is for the moment, authenticity lasts for a lifetime.
13. Your relationship with your parents is important.
The stronger your relationship with them the better. They’re the people who are most likely to always be there to help you and support you, so don’t toss that away. I’ll be open here and admit that my relationship with my mom is a really strong one, so when one romantic relationship ended and devastated me, I was able to cry on her shoulder. That’s the kind of relationship we have. You’ll value your parents later on, especially when you’re in their position. Build with them what you want your future kids to build with you.
14. You can set an example now.
Like it or not, little kids and younger siblings look up to teenagers. Use that opportunity to set the best example you can. I pretty much blew it with my younger brother, and it’s something that I regret and am now trying (with much difficulty) to repair. We have the potential to do so much good when we set healthy examples for the people coming after us. You can literally change someone’s life…and that should excite you!
15. Putting people over your phone sets you apart.
With everyone on their phone (guilty here) so frequently, it’s easy to sideline people who are there in order to text people who aren’t. While it’s completely understandable to want to talk to close friends who are far away (especially if you have a small window of time to talk), it’s a safe general rule to keep your phone in your pocket when you’re with people. It makes you stand out.
16. You can learn from losing.
You can view failure as two things: a loss or an opportunity to learn. I’ve come to realize over the past year that when I view my failures as lessons, I become less afraid, knowing that success is inevitable. “I never lose,” I say to myself. “I only learn.”
17. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Take your work seriously. Take your faith and relationships seriously. It’s easier to make friends when you can take a joke and make jokes about yourself. I’ve gotten through a lot of awkward moments with ease because I can laugh at myself.
18. Listening to people has a lot of benefits.
One of the characteristics of a charming person is their ability to make you feel like they’re actually listening. This usually comes from the fact that they are. Every person has stories, and listening allows you to discover hilarious and inspiring moments that maybe few people know about! Show people you’re listening by nodding, agreeing, even interjecting very briefly when it’s okay to do so. People love being listened to and there are potential benefits in it for you.
19. There are more hurting people out there than you realize.
Depression, anxiety, stress…these are all things that a lot of people have to deal with on a daily basis. The problem is most people are good at hiding it and so we never know until it’s too late. Do what you can to ease the burden on other people by being kind and reaching out to them if you can. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized just how prevalent it is all across the board.
20. Other people can’t heal or fix you.
Your friends, family, and romantic relationships can help you. They can speed up the healing process, support you when things are bad, and guide you towards where you should go. They can reveal truths to you that maybe you couldn’t see. But, in the end, when dealing with deep internal wounds, no one can actually fix you. That part is on you, and your willingness to surrender to God.
21. Comparison is useless unless you can shoot for that goal.
Seeing models in a magazine, on tv, and all over the place can be intimidating when we feel like we don’t live up to those standards. Comparison in an area that you’re unable to change is useless and is, more often than not, downright harmful. Simply avoid it unless you see something that you CAN attain. Sometimes I compare my writing to others’ not so I can feel bad, but so that I have a goal to shoot for…and that makes me better.
22. Quality is always superior to quantity.
In nearly every aspect of life, from the people you hang out with, to the people you’ve dated, right down to the very words you say. It’s best to have less and the best, than more and mediocrity.
23. You define yourself.
You’ll hear a lot of people talking about how they need to “find themselves.” This is sometimes used as an excuse to do anything when you get to college. But, I’ve found the fact that I’m defined and shaped more by myself than finding myself. If there’s a type of person that you want to be, then be that person. If you’re shy but want to be more outgoing, it’s perfectly fine to work hard and put yourself out there more. Or, maybe you’re a talkative person who wants to listen more. In the end, you’re the master of the majority of your life, so seize it and mold it.
24. The world doesn’t owe you anything.
You’re not owed stuff and things simply by virtue of existence. Life tends to give back what you put into it. The people who always get the most seem to be, in my experience, those who give the most freely. So, instead of walking around with an entitled mindset, try to figure out what you can contribute.
25. Just because it “feels right” doesn’t mean it is.
A lot of people will abandon their previously set moral boundaries because something “feels right.” Sometimes things feel right in the moment and are simply destructive in the long run. Feelings are important, but acting out entirely on them is a path to destruction.
26. The future is a reality.
You’ll hear a lot about “live in the present,” and you definitely should! But living in the present also comes with the responsibility of making choices right now that will affect your tomorrow. Living in the present is not permission to live like tomorrow doesn’t exist, because when it comes around, it can be a rude awakening.
27. Good friends are priceless.
When you find people who will listen to your struggles, give you advice, be there for you, and challenge you, hold on to them. So many of us struggle to find good people in our lives. When we find them, we should never take them for granted.
28. You’re not alone.
No matter how weird or different you may feel, people are out there who share the same values and mindsets you do, and you simply need to find them. There are 7 billion people on this planet. The odds are stacked incredibly in your favor when it comes to finding likeminded individuals who value loyalty, honesty, or other things that might be incredibly important to you.
29. You can solve almost any problem by sitting down face to face and being honest.
A large number of high school relationships fail due to misunderstandings and poor communication. Rifts between friends and misunderstandings all around can usually be fixed by a sit down that’s honest. And, if necessary, bring an unbiased mediator with you to make sure that nothing gets out of hand.
30. Love is a verb.
The past year taught me this incredibly important lesson: Love is, above all, an action. Like C.S. Lewis said, ”Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as if you did.” As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will come to love them. When you say you love someone, be prepared to answer the followup question of “How?” I love my brother by having patience and listening to his stories. I love my friends by hugging them and listening to their struggles. I love my mom by showing affection and helping around the house. In the end, real, tangible love is an action, not a feeling.